The New Mexico Wildlife Federation is calling for the removal of acting Bureau of Land Management director William Perry Pendley.
Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt appointed Pendley through an executive order on July 29. NMWF joined the National Wildlife Federation and all of its western affiliates to protest Pendley’s appointment in an Aug. 7 letter to Congress.
“Put simply, (Pendley) believes public lands should not be in public hands,” the letter reads.
According to his biography on the BLM website, Pendley is a Wyoming native and former U.S. Marine who served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy and Minerals in the Interior Department during the Reagan administration before becoming president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation.
Jesse Deubel, executive director for the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, called Pendley’s appointment “unfathomable.”
“He has been outspoken about transferring the management of federal land to private ownership,” Deubel said. “That should disqualify him from running a public land agency that manages 240 million acres.”
In January 2016, Pendley wrote an article for the National Review titled, “The Federal Government Should Follow the Constitution and Sell Its Western Lands,” in which he decried environmental groups he said are not familiar with western public lands interests for having “intervened in land-management decision making.”
Under Pendley’s direction in 1997, the Mountain States Legal Foundation challenged President Clinton’s creation of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah. The law firm also supported President Donald Trump’s executive order to shrink that monument and the newly-created Bears Ears National Monument.
“New Mexico has a huge economy based on outdoor recreation, much of which takes place on BLM land,” Deubel said. “To see that land become inaccessible to citizens or tourists would be devastating to people, the environment and wildlife.”
Pendley’s acting director position doesn’t require Senate confirmation. Deubel said elected officials in Congress should have the opportunity to question Pendley about his views on federal land management.
Bernhardt has proposed moving BLM headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Grand Junction, Colorado, as a way to place staff closer to the lands the agency manages and promote the agency’s mission of multiple land use. But Deubel said the move is a step toward dismantling the agency.
“Many BLM officials will not be able to relocate out west,” Deubel said. “This is a way to strip experienced officials from the agency and cripple the BLM’s ability to do its job.
“Multiple use can already exist while land is under federal management,” Deubel continued. “Agencies and conservation groups have input, and they work together to draft land management plans. Where appropriate, land is used for livestock grazing and mineral extraction. But the land is still in the ownership of the citizens.”
The National Wildlife Federation letter asks Congress to freeze any funds for a headquarters move until the Senate confirms a new BLM director.